Tag: civil rights

50 Years of Affirmative Action: What Went Right, and What It Got Wrong

On cold mornings, Les Goodson shows up early outside the University Club, on a wealthy stretch of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and races two panhandlers he has nicknamed Catman and Pimp-the-Baby for a warm spot in front of a steam vent. He launches into “Take Five” on his saxophone, leaving his case open for bills and coins.

In a good week, it’s a living — enough to pay the rent on his railroad flat in Harlem and put food on the table. A few times, he has seen a former classmate, Gregory Peterson, bound into the social club without so much as a nod.

Mr. Goodson, 67, and his classmate were among a record number of black students admitted to Columbia University in 1969. Columbia and other competitive colleges had already begun changing the racial makeup of their campuses as the civil rights movement gained ground, but the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and the resulting student strikes and urban uprisings, prompted them to redouble their efforts.

They acted partly out of a moral imperative, but also out of fear that the fabric of society was being torn apart by racial conflict. They took chances on promising black students from poor neighborhoods they had long ignored, in addition to black students groomed by boarding schools.

A look back through the decades shows what went right in the early years of affirmative action in college admissions, but also what can go wrong even with the best of intentions.

Those who were able, through luck or experience or hard work, to adapt to the culture of institutions that had long been pillars of the white establishment succeeded by most conventional measures. Others could not break through because of personal trauma, family troubles, financial issues, culture shock — the kind of problems felt by many white students as well, but compounded by being in such a tiny minority. And universities at the time, they said, did not have the will or the knowledge to help.

“I think it’s a fair question to ask: Did we really understand or know what we were doing, or could we have predicted what the issues would be?” said Robert L. Kirkpatrick Jr., who at the time was dean of admissions at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., which was part of these early efforts. “The answer is no. I think we were instinctively trying to do the right thing.”

Columbia — an Ivy League campus right next to Harlem — was a particularly revelatory setting. Perhaps nowhere else were the divisions more striking between the privilege inside university gates and the troubles and demands of black people outside them.

The New York Times tracked down many of the nearly 50 black students in Columbia’s Class of 1973, who arrived on campus as freshmen in 1969. Some of them have remained close friends and helped locate others from directories and photographs.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/30/us/affirmative-action-50-years.html?emc=edit_th_190331&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=728232290331

Facebook Won’t Let Employers, Landlords or Lenders Discriminate in Ads Anymore

The sweeping changes come two years after ProPublica’s reporting, which sparked lawsuits and widespread outrage.

Facebook advertisers can no longer target users by age, gender and ZIP code for housing, employment and credit offers, the company announced Tuesday as part of a major settlement with civil rights organizations.

The wide-ranging agreement follows reporting by ProPublica since 2016 that found Facebook let advertisers exclude users by race and other categories that are protected by federal law. It is illegal for housing, job and credit advertisers to discriminate against protected groups.

ProPublica had been able to buy housing-related ads on Facebook that excluded groups such as African Americansand Jews, and it previously found job ads excluding users by age and gender placed by companies that are household names, like Uber and Verizon Wireless.

“This settlement is a shot across the bow to all tech companies and platforms,” said Peter Romer-Friedman, a lawyer with Outten & Golden in Washington who represented the plaintiffs along with the ACLU. “They need to understand that civil rights apply to the internet, and it’s not a civil rights-free zone.”

The changes apply to advertisers who offer housing, employment and credit offers to U.S.-based users of Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. Facebook said it hopes to implement the requirements by the end of the year.

The agreement also will create a separate online portal for housing, credit and employment offers. Those advertisers will not be able to target users in a geographic area smaller than a 15-mile radius, which advocates say tamps down on “digital” neighborhood redlining.

Housing, job and credit advertisers will also now only be able to choose from a few hundred interest categories to target consumers, down from several thousand. Critics have said such a swath of finely tuned categories, like people interested in wheelchair ramps, are essentially proxies to find and exclude certain groups. Facebook said it will keep more generic interests like “real estate,” “apartment” and “job interview.”

Facebook also said it will create a page where users can see all current housing ads whether or not the users were among those targeted. The agreement says Facebook will also study how algorithms can be biased.

“There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a statement Tuesday.

The changes are part of Facebook’s settlement in five discrimination lawsuits. Plaintiffs included the Communications Workers of America and several fair-housing organizations, as well as individual consumers and job seekers. The settlement includes a payout of about $5 million to plaintiffs, mostly to defray legal costs.

The company agreed last year to limit advertisers’ ability to target by some demographic categories, following a complaint by Washington state.

Facebook has previously said that it was being held to an unreasonably high standard, and that ads excluding users by age and gender were not discriminatory. “We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory,” Vice President of Ads Rob Goldman wrote in a December 2017 post. “Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work.” The post was titled: “This Time, ProPublica, We Disagree.”

Facebook said Tuesday it had “not seen the kind of explicit discriminatory behavior that civil rights groups are concerned about.” But ProPublica used a crowdsourcing project to find dozens examples of job ads that excluded workers over 40women and other protected groups.

Facebook has made another move recently that resulted in less transparency around ads. This year, it moved to block a ProPublica project that allowed the public to see how political ads are being targeted on Facebook.

The company said it was simply enforcing its terms of service.

Jay-Z on ‘Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story’ and Activism

In the six-part docu-series “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” the filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason recount the teenager’s life and his deadly encounter with George Zimmerman in a gated townhouse community outside Orlando. Through interviews with key players, including Mr. Martin’s family and Don West, a defense lawyer for Mr. Zimmerman, the directors zero in on what they see as a flawed criminal justice system. They also make an argument that the divisive case (in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter) galvanized both the Black Lives Matter movement and white nationalists.

The documentary makes a case for viewing Trayvon Martin’s death and the Zimmerman verdict as a turning point that galvanized progressive political activists and white supremacists alike. Did it help spark your own desire to be more publicly outspoken about politics?

I wouldn’t use that as the catalyst. So many things have been going on and the whole climate in America has changed again. I mean, obviously, I think it was the pendulum swinging back from Obama being president. I feel like it was festering and I think the Obama administration just brought those frustrations to another place where people can spread the propaganda of hate.

Also, on the flip side, we’re looking at people who, in areas like Middle America, were not really taken care of. You know? They vote for Democrats because their parents voted Democrat and America was a different place at that time. The middle class was allowed to thrive and there was steel in Indiana and the car jobs in Detroit and all these places where these factories were to provide a way for you to start somewhere in low income, get middle class and then maybe end up with the house of your dreams. This was the American dream and it was real. Then that America changed and no one addressed that.

The filmmakers and Mr. Martin’s parents hope “Rest in Power,” which debuts Monday on the Paramount Network and BET, moves Mr. Martin beyond the realm of symbolism and demonstrates the costs of ignoring these issues. “I hope people walk away knowing who Trayvon Martin really was,” Sybrina Fulton, Mr. Martin’s mother, said.

“I want people to walk away having a clear view of what this country is about right now, and not what they thought it is,” she added.

The docu-series was first announced in early 2017 as part of a production partnership between Jay-Z and The Weinstein Company. But the Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein have been scrubbed from the credits of “Rest in Power” since the publication of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times and The New Yorker last year. (The company did not have editorial input on the series, according to Paramount, which said it “owns and financed the project” in full. Ms. Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, have said that the Weinstein Company owes them money for the rights to their book, which served as source material for the documentary.)

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/29/arts/jay-z-interview-rest-in-power-the-trayvon-martin-story

Is This the End of Stop and Frisk?

mary_110_article-small_21602New York City’s stop-and-frisk program has exploded by 600 percent under Mayor Michael Bloomberg — garnering outrage from critics who believe that the practice forces Black and Latino residents to live under a separate-and-unequal police state, subject to random violations of their Fourth Amendment constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure. Though originally intended to curb gun violence, the program has become carte blanche for New York Police Department officers to racially profile young males in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. With the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union, city residents sued the NYPD — seeking justice from those sworn to protect and defend them. In a case specifically focused on the Trespass Affidavit Program, or TAP, which allowed officers to stop and question residents both inside and outside private property (in residences dubbed “clean halls” buildings), plaintiffs argued that the NYPD “has a widespread practice of making unlawful stops on suspicion of trespass.” The lead plaintiff, Jaenean Ligon, filed suit after her 17-year-old son was stopped for no reason outside his apartment building during a trip to the store to purchase ketchup. Yes, ketchup. This week, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin issued an injunction prohibiting NYPD officers from engaging in stop and frisk outside buildings designated by TAP. The facts of the case reveal that patrolling officers never differentiated between potential criminals and citizens. Black and Latino residents were stopped on suspicion of being Black and Latino alone. In addition to Ligon, other plaintiffs included Charles Bradley, a 51-year-old African-American security guard, who was arrested while visiting his fiancee in the Bronx. Bradley was stopped, frisked, transported to a police station, strip-searched and fingerprinted — all while being asked questions about his potential involvement with guns and drugs.

Read it at The Root.